Distribution Connections Vital In Retail, Supplier Success


Washington — Working together to sell with a purpose should be the end goal for those in the sweets and snacks industries, a panel of experts told audience members yesterday.

In a presentation at the recent Sweets & Snacks Expo titled Distributors 101: Making Connections with Candy and Snacks Distributors, representatives from the distribution and manufacturing chain explained how manufacturers, distributors and retailers must work together to make consumers happy.

Kellie Janssen, president of Henry’s Foods and chairman of the Convenience Distribution Association, explained the importance of that partnership.

“From the manufacturer to the distributor to the retailer — we all have to form a partnership if we want the customer to be satisfied,” she noted. “As distributors, we need to sit down frequently with the manufacturer.”

Jason Ricard, vice-president of sales, convenience/vending for Mondelez International, Inc. said he considers distributors an “extension” of his manufacturing and sales team.

“We rely heavily on our distributors. We do joint business planning with distributors like we do with retailers. We put together category management plans and bring them to retailers,” he told the audience.

Jay DeSantis, director of sales at Team Sledd, explained his role as a distributor is to be a conduit between the manufacturer and the retailer.

“The number one thing to remember is to get the product out of your store. Make sure you’re making a fair profit and your customer is happy,” he advised retailers.

DeSantis went on to describe the importance behind a tailored planogram with data to back it up.

“All planograms don’t fit the same. You must put a little science behind it. It can’t be just ‘manager’s choice,’” he said, adding that after retailers have their planogram in place, its critical to measure its progress in six months to a year to determine its overall future success.

Communication among the retailers, manufacturers and distributors is key, according to the panel. Janssen urged retailers in the audience to speak with their distribution partners to get any available scientific data. 

“It’s about the passion we have for the space. How do we effectively sell product to end consumer?” Janssen asked.

Because the convenience channel is so fragmented, Mondelez’ Ricard said the need for distributors in that trade class is even more paramount. 

“There are 150,000 stores across the country and many of them are independent,” explained Ricard, who went on to say Mondelez created a whole new position to specifically work with distributors.

Despite supply chain issues and out-of-stocks, Janssen said there remains a need for innovation because the end consumer is still looking for new items.

De Santis cautioned, however, that manufacturers understand there must be a compelling reason a new item should be included in the planogram.

“For a new item to be introduced into Team Sledd, it has to have a home, you have to explain what it will replace,” he stressed to those in attendance. “Maintaining that integrity of the planogram is essential.”

During supply chain interruptions, the panel said they’ve witnessed retailers getting creative to fill those empty spaces, whether it is offering another pack size or flavor that is available.

In the end, Janssen reminded the audience, everyone is in the business of moving product. “We want to sell with a purpose, and as a retailer, you have to be part of the end-user experience.”